FORT MILL — There were several hurdles that Nation Ford was able to get over this year, including a region win and a playoff berth.
But the Falcons again will have to wait until next year to earn a win against rival Fort Mill as the Jackets picked up a 28-14 win in the fifth meeting between the teams.
"I am so proud of these seniors," said Jackets coach Ed Susi.
For the Jackets, the season was done after the game. On the other hand, Nation Ford has clinched its first playoff berth. It will be on the road next week to open the playoffs.
Still, pride was on the line for both schools and a four-game winning streak against Nation Ford was on the line for Fort Mill, as an estimated 5,000 people packed into Bob Jones Stadium.
Despite a small victory knowing it is going to the playoffs, Nation Ford coach Michael Allen said losing to Fort Mill still hurts.
"The playoffs are no moral victory," he said. "We are trying to build a tradition. The bottom line is that Fort Mill wanted it more in the second half."
The game was a barn burner as each team either scored or turned the ball over, it seemed, on each drive. Fort Mill senior quarterback Preston Fry and running back Nick Raszeja took the game into their hands in the final quarter to secure the win.
In the fourth quarter after both teams traded scores in the third, Fry and Raszeja led the Jackets on a 13-play drive to score as Fry hit Garrett Ray in the end zone with about eight minutes left.
"This was a good way to end the season," Raszeja said. "We wanted to go out with a bang."
Fry and Raszeja teamed up to score for a second time with about two minutes left as Fry rushed for three first downs on the drive and Raszeja ran for a 20-yard gain to get the ball into Nation Ford territory. Raszeja scored on a seven yard run after a 23-yard run to get the ball within the 10-yard line.
"When you play Nation Ford, it's about pride," Fry said. "We (seniors) knew we had to do something special. We had to step up. We didn't want to go out losing to them."
Fort Mill capitalized on a Nation Ford fumble to open the third quarter as it they took over near midfield and went 51 -yards on nine plays to score. Fry hit Raszeja on a big 23-yard pass that put Fort Mill at the three-yard line, where Raszeja scored on the next play to give the Jackets the lead.
Nation Ford didn't hang its their head, but came right back to score as senior quarterback Cameron Wells would completed six of seven passes on the drive, the last one to hit junior Dijuan Ussery on the 11th play for the score. Ussery caught a big 22 yard pass and J.J. McCullough caught a 16 yard pass to set up the touchdown for the Falcons.
Nation Ford junior running back Daniel Jackson came into the game needing 30 yards for a 1,000 on the season. He rushed for 78 on 18 carries. Jackson got the 1,000-yard mark on his seventh carry and then punched the ball into the end zone in the second quarter to cap a 10-play, 54-yard drive, aided by a 15-yard Fort Mill penalty.
Fort Mill 28, Nation Ford 14
NF - Daniel Jackson nine-yard run (Corey Condron kick)
FM - Preston Fry 13-yard run (Rylan Wells kick)
FM - Nick Raszeja three-yard run (Wells kick)
NF - Cameron Wells to Dijuan Ussery eight-yard pass (Condron kick)
FM - Fry to Garrett Ray 12-yard pass (Wells kick)
FM - Raszeja seven-yard run (Wells kick)
Rushes - yards
Comp. - Att. - Int.
Fumbles - lost
Penalties - yards
Rushing - Nation Ford: Daniel Jackson 18-78, Brandon Sturdivant 3-12, Cameron Wells 4-9, J.J. McCullough 1-2.
Fort Mill: Nick Raszeja 26-130, Preston Fry 15-48, Rylan Wells 4-26, Tony Godbolt 4-11, Deryan Sanders 2-20.
Passing - Nation Ford: Cameron Wells 11-19-1-99.
Fort Mill: Preston Fry 8-12-0 81.
Receiving - Nation Ford: Brandon Sturdivant 1-6, J.J. McCullough 4-45, Andrew Komornik 2-15, Dijuan Ussery 5-33.
Fort Mill: Tony Godbolt 1-12, Josh Aarage 1-8, Rylan Wells 1-7, Garrett Ray 3-27, Nick Raszeja 1-23, Josh Lafoe 1-4.
Records: Nation Ford 5-5, 2-3 Region IV-AAA; Fort Mill 4-6, 1-4 Region IV-AAA.